Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Incarnation Monastery, Berkeley

"The deeper the contemplative communion, the wider the embrace in solidarity. Solitude teaches us, after all, that we are really brothers and sisters of the same family. This is the great gift that the "monk within" offers the world-human solidarity, universally expressed in communion with God. And a great irony rest within this gift. Authentically lived, monastic solitude breaks through human barriers  of isolation and speak a silent word of universal love and solidarity with all life".
The Language of Silence (2003) Peter-Damian Belisle

On this blog you have heard me mention the importance of having regular "retreats" or "quiet times" where one can reflect on their own spiritual journey. Taking "time outs" like these are wise things to do. Last week, I had the opportunity to stay at Incarnation Monastery (IM) in Berkeley, California. The monastery-actually a retreat house-is located  up a long steep road, some twenty five minutes by foot from downtown Berkeley. Far from the madding hustle and bustle of the famous University and city.

My visit to IM was not what I expected it to be which in fact was a good thing. Life is never what we think, is it? IM is a Benedictine monastery, however a branch of the Benedictine tradition called the Camaldolese who emphasize contemplation, silence and solitude. The Camaldolese are in fact a fascinating offshoot of the Benedictines, who have an interesting story. The founder, St. Romulad (1027) sought to develop a stricter brand of the Benedictine order, one which was more hermitic instead of cenobitic (or communal).  A unique feature of a Camaldolese monastery is the emphasis on quiet-a challange for most of us noisy people who live our lives in the busy world. I must confess the stress on "silence" takes some getting used to and is a challenge for those of us who co-exist with iPADS, cell phones and blogs! Yet as the minutes, hours and days progressed, the silence begins to perform its wonderful work. For example, I began questioning whether I needed these technical toys.  I was starting to enjoy the solitude and time to read "In Praise of Hiddenness", a study on soltiude. On the downside, efforts to communicate verbally seemed awkward and clumsy. 

One of the gems of the monastery is Fr. Thomas Matus, a Camaldolese monk who has written several books about Bede Griffiths, and who also had the opportunity to worked in India at Shantivanam. Mathus's "Bede Griffiths Essential Writings" is an excellent and challanging book which is an anthology of one of the most remarkable Christian figures of the last century. I enjoyed this encounter and am looking forward to reading some of Fr. Mathus's other books and useful clips on YouTube.

Monasteries are also wonderful places to meet other people. I want to take a shout out to Leonard Capozzi who I met at the monastery. Leonard is a great person, deeply spiritual and insightful. I enjoyed having the chance to speak with Lenny about his spiritual experience and admire his desire to live to live an authentic, meaningful Christian life, and to live according to the Benedictine Rule. Thanks for your kindness!  I've included a photo of Leonard above.

So in all, going to IM was useful for several reasons. One, helping me to stay within the riches of the Benedictine tradition with the emphasis on silence, discipline, and focus. And second, to have the opportunity to meet such interesting and lovely people as Fr. Mathus and Lenny Capozzi.


  1. Hi, I am Leandro Posadas, from Venezuela. I would like to know the monastery of the Incarnation. I like the monastic vocation. Could you please give me the email address of the community of the incarnation at Berkeley.

  2. Hi Leandro, check out the following link which will give you the email address of Incarnation.

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